Oathbringer Reread

Oathbringer Reread: Chapter Sixty-Eight

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This week’s reread is featuring Hoid, so you just know it’s going to be full of witticisms and mysteries! Our favorite world-hopper’s never straight forward about anything, and he’s certainly in rare form this week as he drops hints about everything from his age to his role in the Cosmere. And along the way, he imparts a bit of wholesome advice to Shallan, nestled in amongst the jokes and snark.

Reminder: We’ll potentially be discussing spoilers for the entire novel in each reread. There are multiple Cosmere hints scattered throughout the discussion, because Hoid, so be wary of that. But if you haven’t read ALL of Oathbringer, best to wait to join us until you’re done.

Chapter Recap

WHO: Shallan/Veil
WHERE: Kholinar, an inn in the marketplace
WHEN: 1174.1.10.3—Immediately after Chapter 67

Shallan and Wit/Hoid chat in an Inn.

(Phew, that was a tough one this week, guys. I think I need to go lie down for awhile.)

Truth, Love, and Defiance

Title:  Aim for the Sun

“Why are you here?”

“To open the Oathgate,” Shallan said. “Save the city.”

Pattern hummed.

“Lofty goals,” Wit said.

“What’s the point of goals, if not to spur you to something lofty?”

“Yes, yes. Aim for the sun. That way if you miss, at least your arrow will fall far away, and the person it kills will likely be someone you don’t know.”

AA: I really like the choice of title this week. For all the witty repartee, Shallan is sincere in her desire to do a very important thing—not for the sake of “having lofty goals” but because it desperately needs to be done, and she’s the tool best suited for the task. At the same time, considering what their small party is up against, it’s aiming very, very high. Naturally, Wit has just the right words… and a snarky tagline to keep it from being saccharine.

Heralds

Joker

L: This one’s pretty self-explanatory—Hoid’s here.

AA: Indeed. And he’s very much in wild-card mode, too.

Icon

Pattern

Epigraph

My research into the cognitive reflections of spren at the tower has been deeply illustrative. Some thought that the Sibling had withdrawn from men by intent—but I find counter to that theory.

—From drawer 1-1, first zircon

L: Oooooh now this is a juicy little tidbit. Before we get into the intent bit, I’d like to point out that it’s interesting that the Knights Radiant of old didn’t have a name for the Sibling either. Cultivation and Honor had proper names, sibling is more… a descriptor. Why is so little known about them? And what drew them away?!

AA: I hadn’t thought about that before; apparently it’s been just “Sibling” for a long, long time. I’ll bet the Parsh had another name for them at one time; I’d sure like to know what it was! (Nightwatcher, too.) I have a feeling that any other name might give away more about the Sibling than Sanderson wants to reveal just yet. (Let me just say, if/when he does give us another name, he’d better include a good reason for leaving all the gemstone references as “Sibling”!)

This is the first of three gemstones in this particular drawer. We’ll deal with all three as a unit when we get to Chapter 70; this week we’ll just look at the first. Here we have an Elsecaller who’s been peeking into Shadesmar to see what the spren around the tower look like there. Why?? Were they being corrupted, like the ones we’re seeing in the main timeline in Kholinar? Did the Sibling withdraw to avoid contamination by Sja-anat? Was Odium attempting to annex the Sibling as “his superspren” to match NW/Cultivation and SF/Honor, causing the Sibling to recoil away from humanity and spren alike?

At this point, I’m beginning to think the Unmade were converging on Urithiru, maybe challenging the Sibling. We know (or think we know) that Re-Shephir was trapped in the cellar by a Lightweaver. Was Sja-anat nearby corrupting the spren? Was Moelach affecting the Truthwatchers’ visions? Was Nergaoul causing some of the flaring tempers that the gemstones hint at? Ah, so many questions.

Stories & Songs

“Are you one of them?” Shallan blurted out. “Are you a Herald, Wit?”

“Heavens, no,” Wit said. “I’m not stupid enough to get mixed up in religion again. The last seven times I tried it were all disasters. I believe there’s at least one god still worshipping me by accident.”

L: It’s so hard to know what’s legit and what’s BS with him. This could very well be real, for all we know.

AA: In the beta, someone suggested that he might be referring to the Court of Gods on Nalthis with that last remark. I’d thought of it in terms of the Shardic Vessels, but I have to admit, Nalthis is more likely. Also sort of hilarious, when you think about it!

AP: Count me in the camp that thinks he’s telling the truth, or at least truthiness. He’s opening up to Shallan for some reason. He’s telling her that he’s not what she thinks he is, and also that her world is much larger than she realizes. I have her pegged for more Cosmere involvement as a result, once her Rosharan adventures are over.

L: I could definitely see that. Hoid’s obviously taken quite a shine to her.

“Child, when [the Heralds] were but babes, I had already lived dozens of lifetimes. ‘Old’ is a word you use for worn shoes. I’m something else entirely.”

AA: I mean… it’s not like we didn’t know this, but he says it straight out! (… well, “straight” for Hoid. With him, all adjectives are relative.) It’s fascinating to get this glimpse into his past, especially with it all smashed together like this. Here’s young Shallan, trying to figure out how to function in the present, and the Unmade, who are much, much older, and the Heralds, who are apparently even older… and then there’s Hoid, who was already ancient when they were born.

“But others up on the platform actually know the spren—specifically, the creature known as the Heart of the Revel.”

“One of the Unmade.”

AP: Dun dun DUN! This will be the second direct Unmade encounter for Kholinar. (The first being Aesudan/Yelig-nar.)

Bruised & Broken

The prices raised Shallan’s eyebrows…

L: Just noting that Shallan has dropped out of “Veil” entirely here. And Wit notices this as well:

“You’re walking like a prim lighteyes, which looks silly in that costume. You’ll only be able to pull off a coat and a hat if you own them.”

“I know,” she said, grimacing. “The persona… fled once you recognized me.”

AA: I can’t help wondering, as I’m sure we’re supposed to: Was her persona affected by something magical about Hoid, or was she herself simply unable to maintain it? I guess I’m trying to figure out whether this is magic affecting her, or plain old human self-consciousness. Or, perhaps, in the face of someone who knows her deeply, her personality-disorder issues are squashed out by Truth.

AP: I don’t think she’s able to maintain a persona when the other person knows her. I don’t think the issues are squashed, and she does have some features of dissociative identity disorder, but she knows the personas are fictions. The main persona she has that is truly dissociative is Shallan the lighteyes vs. Shallan the childhood trauma victim (her core self).

L: That’s a good point, actually, Aubree. We often see her dropping her alternate personalities when she’s interacting with people she knows well, or who know her well—Adolin and Kaladin for the most part. This is usually when we see the most instances of her waffling on her name attribution in internal dialogue.

AA: It’s a good reminder that Shallan is an extremely unreliable narrator. She’s not maliciously lying to lead us astray, but her view of the world—and more especially, her view of herself—is just wrong. Right now, she still knows Veil is a disguise, even though she uses the word “persona” and is already beginning to credit “Veil” with actual personality traits. Later on, she’s going to get much worse… but we’ll talk about that when we get there.

“Some men, as they age, grow kinder. I am not one of those, for I have seen how the cosmere can mistreat the innocent—and that leaves me disinclined toward kindness. Some men, as they age, grow wiser. I am not one of those, for wisdom and I have always been at cross-purposes, and I have yet to learn the tongue in which she speaks. Some men, as they age, grow more cynical. I, fortunately, am not one of those. If I were, the very air would warp around me, sucking in all emotion, leaving only scorn.”

L: Hoid’s just so damn quotable.  But I put this here, in this section, mostly for that first bit about kindness. I always find it fascinating how writers deal with pseudo- or actual-immortals. It makes sense, in a way, that he would be disinclined towards kindness considering all the things he has seen (of which I am sure we know only the tiniest portion). But just because it’s understandable doesn’t necessarily make it right. And it’s worthwhile to note that Hoid actually is a great deal kinder than I think he wants to admit to himself. He obviously cares for Shallan. He helped Kaladin out of a rough spot. He seems to have a soft spot for the broken people left in the wake of the wars which sweep over the Cosmere. Because he’s a broken person himself as well, I wonder?

AP: What I like about the Cosmere is that we see examples of all of these! It’s practically filthy with immortals of one flavor or another, and they all respond to the challenge differently.

L: I have to admit, I’m partial to immortals (probably due to a certain film/TV show I loved when I was in my formative years). So I totally agree, I love that the Cosmere is simply overrun with them. Just as long as we never wind up with a Quickening situation…

“When I was young… I made a vow. … I said I’d always be there when I was needed.”

L: This could be taken so many different ways…

AP: I really want Hoid’s backstory! Especially since it seems that the one he is in Kholinar for is the spren…

L: Sucks that we’re going to be waiting a long time for it.

“Elhokar though, he worries about the wrong things. His father wore a simple crown because he needed no reminder of his authority. Elhokar wears a simple crown because he worries that something more lavish might make people look at it, instead of at him. He doesn’t want the competition.”

L: I’m really not sure if I agree with Wit’s assessment here. I find it more likely that he’s only wearing it because his father did and he’s trying so hard to keep traditions. Now… that’s not much better than what Wit suggested, not in comparison to Gavilar. Elhokar is, for certain, a weak king. But I think Wit’s doing him a disservice by not accepting the fact that he’s trying to change.

AP: Wit hasn’t been around for Elhokar’s self improvement plan. It’s very recent, and I think the assessment is accurate from when he left the shattered plains.

AA: It was at least accurate from the public face Elhokar put on. Well before the end of Words of Radiance, Elhokar came to Kaladin to seek answers, which implies that he’s been watching Kaladin and trying to figure out how to be all that. Since it was all internal, Wit didn’t see any of it; one of the last things he observed about Elhokar before he took off again was the temper tantrum at the arena, when Kaladin put his size 10 right in the middle of the carefully crafted Sadeas-trap. He stayed long enough to see Dalinar respond to Sadeas’s public twisting of the visions, and Elhokar being completely weak and powerless. So he has reason to think poorly of Elhokar, but I agree with Lyn—he’s wrong.

Places & Peoples

The only difference between Shallan’s meal and Wit’s was the sauce—hers sweet, his spicy, though his had the sauce in a cup at the side. Food supplies were tight, and the kitchen wasn’t preparing both masculine and feminine dishes.

AA: I had to note this, because it’s come up so many times in previous discussions. When resources are inadequate, you make the same basic food for everyone, and then (if you can) you make small amounts of sauce to distinguish between the men’s and the women’s.

Also, just because I’m curious, what’s with Wit getting Shallan to eat all the food?

Tight Butts and Coconuts

“Secure your wine well this evening, for the revolution will be swift, vengeful, and intoxicated!”

L: Someone remind me to petition Team Dragonsteel to put this on a shirt. I’d wear the heck out of it.

AP: I mean, a month before JordanCon is totally enough time to print shirts, right???

“You shouldn’t push people down the stairs for being sincere. You push people down the stairs for being stupid.

L: Wise words indeed.

AP: Bad Lyn! Don’t push people down the stairs!

L: What if they’re little flights of stairs? Like… three or four steps?

AP: Then YEET!

L: As you wish.

“Sadeas counts twice.”

“Um… he’s dead, Wit.”

“What?” Wit sat up straight. … “Someone offed old Sadeas, and I missed it?”

L: Good to know that Wit’s got his priorities straight.

AP: Also a good reminder that Wit doesn’t know everything.

AA: Also, “I’d have applauded.” Heh. I don’t always agree with Wit, but we’re as one on this!

“He does grow on you, I suppose. Like a fungus.”

L: Gotta give it to him, he does have some great insults. (But not in-sluts.)

“Also, tell the innkeeper I disappeared in a puff of smoke. It will drive him crazy.”

L: I really do adore him.

AA: And at the same time, I get so frustrated. He manages to hide some good advice in his banter from time to time, but how many times has he turned a poignant moment-in-waiting into a joke, just when we thought we were going to learn something? Bah! (But I still love him.)

Cosmere Connections

“To be honest, ‘there’ has—so far—been a random location that is of absolutely no use to anyone.”

L: Is he implying that the place where he’s most needed is specific, and he knows where it is? Or is he speaking in generalizations? Argh, he makes my head hurt sometimes.

AP: I think that’s exactly what he’s saying. He knows where to go, but not why. Often his appearances are completely tangential to the main events on planet.

L: I hope that when we do wind up getting his story, it’s told something like Secret History or Ender’s Shadow where we see the same events playing out a second time, but from his perspective.

AP: I think that would be really awesome! I love those types of narrative shifts.

AA: There’d better be a little more backstory before we get to that part, though. I need to know more about Yolen, Adonalsium, and the Vessels before they were Vessels! But yes, seeing critical events of the (by then about 30) other books from his perspective would be marvy.

“I can know where I’m supposed to be, Shallan, but not always what I’m supposed to do there.”

L: This seems like he’s saying that it’s some sort of supernatural ability, like a… a premonition, or precognitive ability? Interestingly, Shallan calls him out on this later:

“Be wary of anyone who claims to be able to see the future, Shallan.”

“Except you, of course. Didn’t you say you can see where you need to be?”

“Be wary,” he repeated, “of anyone who claims to be able to see the future, Shallan.”

L: Yikes. That’s foreboding. Also… I wonder if he’s giving her a specific warning about the Truthwatchers, here? Or if he’s—again—speaking in more general terms.

AP: Why not both? I think that, as is often a flaw in precog characters, they see potential futures, but the characters have free will, so no future is set in stone (or metal).

AA: Truthwatchers, sure—meaning Renarin, at this point—but also Taravangian, Odium, and Wit himself. Probably even Cultivation. It could be that right here, Wit is vaguely hoping that Shallan will be able to pass this on to Renarin, to somehow help him start to realize that his visions are only those potential futures.

Interestingly enough, I just ran across a WoB on the subject—about how one person who sees the potential future and acts to change it can really mess up someone else who thought they saw the future. I have a sneaking suspicion that this is going to be more important later.

AP: We see that directly in Mistborn. Two atium burners neutralize one another.

“Yes, yes. I’m so storming clever that half the time, even I can’t follow what I’m talking about.”

L: Well, at least he realizes it.

“The cult reminds me of a group I knew long ago. Equally dangerous, equally foolish.”

L: Do you suppose this is something we’ve seen in another book, or is it something we haven’t seen in print yet? The only thing I can think of that comes even close are the Survivor’s followers, but they’re not really anything like the Cult of Moments in most respects…

AP: I also thought of the Church of the Survivor, but it could definitely be something we don’t know about yet.

L: Hoid’s intense dislike of Kelsier could definitely be playing into his annoyance at this particular cult following.

AA: My first thought was of the Vessels plotting to shatter Adonalsium, or possibly the rise of the Seventeenth Shard. Given the length of Hoid’s history, it could be just about anything. It could even be the Heralds. (I think the Envisagers are too recent to fit the comment.)

“Do you know anything about Wit?” she asked Pattern.

“No,” Pattern said. “He feels like… mmm… one of us.”

L: Maybe because he spends a fair amount of time in the cognitive realm?

AP: Good theory! Or perhaps because he’s “other”, not really human anymore as a result of being around too much investiture for too long.

L: So what you’re saying is, he’s basically a…

A Scrupulous Study of Spren

I can’t make the gate work; the spren of the fabrial won’t obey me.

AA: Given his apparent ability to get where he needs to go by mysterious magical means, I can’t think Hoid really cares that much about working the Oathgates. But it’s a great sneak peek at what the team is going to find when they end up in Shadesmar! Up till this moment, I don’t think we knew the Oathgates were controlled by specific spren, did we? And he specifically names it a fabrial, which the readers assumed and the characters weren’t sure of. I’m a little surprised Shallan didn’t react to some of this, but she was focused on the Cult and might not have been paying as much attention as she could have been.

Sheer Speculation

“There are two kinds of important men, Shallan. There are those who, when the boulder of time rolls towards them, stand up in front of it and hold out their hands. … Those men end up squished.”

L: It pains me ever so much to say this, but I think this is foreshadowing a death. Whether it’s Kaladin, Dalinar, or Adolin, I can’t say, but… (it literally pains me to type the words) my spheres are on Kaladin.

AP: Or it could be Elhokar. At this very moment Elhokar thinks that he can change the course of events in Kholinar just by showing up.

AA: I was thinking Elhokar too, although it’s pretty generally applicable. You could say it fit Gavilar. But I do think more of our beloved characters are going to die in the next two books. Kaladin seems a likely candidate, especially if you think of this as foreshadowing.

Oddly enough, the descriptive part also fits Vasher, but he didn’t end up squished. Also, it kind of fits past!Dalinar (though half the time he was the boulder), and he got pretty well squished; he just doesn’t remember it yet.

“Other men stand to the side when the boulder of time passes, but are quick to say, ‘See what I did! I made the boulder roll there. Don’t make me do it again! Those men end up getting everyone else squished.”

L: Kelsier. Elhokar.

AA: Sadeas. Also Gavilar, sometimes. Also, maybe, possibly… Hoid?

“Is there not a third type of person?”

“There is, but they are oh so rare. These know they can’t stop the boulder. So they walk beside it, study it, and bide their time. Then they shove it—ever so slightly—to create a deviation in its path.

“These are the men… well, these are the men who actually change the world. And they terrify me. For men never see as far as they think they do.”

L: In a way, this is mirroring Kaladin’s actions in book 1. He made changes that he thought were small—but they affected the entire army in ways he didn’t foresee, because he couldn’t see the big picture. I wonder which of the three types Hoid sees himself as. I’d lean towards the third.

AP: I think you’re probably right. I also agree that Kaladin is in this group. Small actions can have major consequences. That’s a major recurring theme in Stormlight Archive as a whole: Lirin stealing the spheres, Kaladin volunteering for the army and winning a Shardblade, training the Bridgeman, Elhokar sending Moash’s grandparents to jail, Dalinar being a generally bad husband through carelessness, etc. Many of the characters’ actions are small individually, but set off huge avalanches of consequences.

AA: I think Hoid is actively trying to avoid being any of them, but really he either is, or has been, all three. Would he see the Seventeenth Shard as part of this group, or the second? Taravangian most definitely fits this list.

Quality Quotations

  • “Having power is a terrible burden, the worst thing imaginable, except for every other alternative.”

AP: Preach!

  • “Power is a knife,” Wit said, taking his seat. “A terrible, dangerous knife that can’t be wielded without cutting yourself.”
  • “Hedonism has never been about enjoyment, Shallan, but the opposite. … It’s listening to beautiful music, performed so loud as to eliminate all subtlety–taking something beautiful and making it carnal.”

AA: So true.

  • “You want to change the world, Shallan. That’s well and good. But be careful. The world predates you. She has seniority.”

There’s still a lot in this chapter that we didn’t address, so feel free to bring it all up in the comments! Next week, we’re tentatively only planning to tackle Chapter 69 unless we get a sudden charge of adrenaline and take Chapter 70 as well. Kaladin’s mission assignment coming up!

Alice is busy jumping from music to writing to doll-clothes to drama props. Always something new! Also, the beta readers are officially not apologizing for the Starsight release date moving to December.

Lyndsey is in a sequinned hell of her own making. If you’re an aspiring author, a cosplayer, or just like geeky content, follow her work on Facebook, find her on IG under @kiarrens, or check out her website.

Aubree is back from she can’t tell you where doing she can’t tell you what. Don’t pay any attention to her new spren.

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